Adult life, pretty much like high school with more money, an absurd popularity contest waged on a lethal playground, charged with disaster and petty triumph. All the really cool kids mobilizing for the International Jeanswear Show kick-off party at the Marlin, the triumvirate of hosts A Island Trading Company, Vibe magazine, and Video Jukebox A embodying an irresistible marketing package of teen-spirit culture. Into the mobbed lobby, a chaotic fashion day assembly obeying no known dress codes: dyed dreadlocks, kilts, garmento coke-and-ponytail leisurewear, the bar clogged with Spandex-encased fannies and manicured paws wildly waving cigarettes, hissing edicts about various icons of the fashionable world. A cattle call casting session that might have intimidated any class nerd, but grownups eventually come to realize that clothes have very little to do with brutal reality. The shlubbiest-looking people always have the most money.

Upstairs to the roof, seeking attitude-free air, the music of chance unfolding a wondrous opportunity. A conversation with another journalist interrupted by a breathless factotum, the woman inviting our companion down to Chris Blackwell's private suite. Back on the hookup highway, attached to the anointed one like a lamprey, popping into a pressure chamber of rarefied fabulousness. A small handful of hipsters milling around and playing pool, our sloppy anti-fashion-as-fashion-manifesto raising a few already arched eyebrows. The heady inner sanctum atmosphere firing up with the arrival of the ultimate Big Man on Campus, Sly Stallone, in tow with Janice Dickinson: America's sweethearts of the moment, the darlings of tabloid land. The press momentarily mute in a surrealistic landscape, contact with movie stars customarily involving ugly crowds, vexing publicists, and programmed responses. A friendly exchange with the ever-polite Stallone, touching on this and that: the problems of home renovation, a United Way benefit with Gianni Versace and Gloria Estefan in October, the couple-on-the-run nightmare: "If we're going to have to escape the pop press constantly, we might as well go up to New York." The statuesque Dickinson beaming in major couture, plowing through the model/nightlife mill and winding up a proud celebrity mom: "I love having a baby, but I think it's going to drive him crazy." Stallone, a certifiable success story, suddenly looking a lot like a chastened football star who got the head cheerleader pregnant. No one ever completely escapes the tolls of life.

The party moving along nicely, Eric Roberts from The Specialist filtering in, Dickinson ("I'm not a nightclub person") putting a stop to the late-night agenda: "Ding, ding, ding...Sly, remember that I just had a baby." And then, an eerie silence settling over the room, the calm before the storm, Madonna strolling in with Ingrid Casares and James Woods A a perfectly sublime moment. The surprisingly small Madonna in an early Material Girl phase: a sheer black half-blouse and B-girl bra, sucking on candy and bouncing around like a misguided kitten. Money, as always, going to money, everyone expecting fireworks, Miss M marching straight up to Stallone and introducing herself. Stallone's public disses of Madonna falling by the wayside A it's a small world after all A the duo trading "Hi, neighbor" pleasantries and talking about assorted landscaping problems, the clash of the titans vaguely anticlimactic. Madonna perfectly pleasant upon introduction to us, making a few perky remarks and then frolicking around with Ingrid, just two bad-seed girls making all the boys crazy. True gossip heaven throughout, Stallone and Woods having a heated discussion about an actress ("You don't humiliate the director in front of the cast; she slapped that script right out of my hands and told me...") Madonna and company skipping upstairs to mingle with mere mortals.

Following along like a geek reporter from a student newspaper, Madonna serving as a nucleus for South Beach amoebas and S&M priestesses, lame working girls ("Go ahead and take her picture A she's not being a bitch tonight"), party entertainer Lisette Melendez, and an editorial team from Vibe. Madonna, as it happens, scratching her basketball-jones itch in an upcoming Vibe cover story, interviewing the flamboyant Dennis Rodman of the San Antonio Spurs. The great woman in a new public relations mode after her controversial appearance on David Letterman, remaining studiously earnest with a fellow reporter: claiming the segment was choreographed in advance, the numerous "fucks" thrown in as a statement against censorship, the audience no doubt booing on cue and everybody having a good chuckle afterward. The vital work of the nation made difficult by all the pounding music, but picking up a few stray tidbits regardless: Madonna working shock-schlock terrain ("You tell him: If he can find his dick, I'll suck it") and describing the painful process of her newest tattoo, a little teddy bear: "So I'm there with my dress up, feeling like I'm gonna pass out...." In the end, just another mercurial Miami girl spewing off woman heat: Fire of our loins, light of our lives, a phantasmagorical phoenix rising from the ashes of the world's delusions. Love that semiotic touchstone to death.

The vortex leaving behind a vacuum of idolatry, the splendid evening inducing an alien emotion, something akin to gratitude. Over to Bash for their first-anniversary celebrations, Luther Campbell and Peggy Iacocca making Hollywood Squares guest shots, and on to Ajaxx Industrial for more fun with Mo and Ingrid. Brian Shaw of the Miami Heat and Madonna nuzzling and licking one another like steamy puppies, although Cruella de Sex had earlier categorized their relationship as "just good friends." A glamour hangover lingering the following day throughout a flurry of please-witness-me phone calls, Madonna and Michael Musto touted as the totemic celeb diners at Follia. Musto, who happened to be in our house talking about John Bobbitt coming to his birthday party, looking mightily amused by the hype. Winding down with dinner at a district restaurant, embracing real conversation with a valid couple from Connecticut: novelist Blanche Boyd (The Revolution of Little Girls) chatting about "conceptually interesting" people and "familiar forms of insanity"; companion and talk-show host Faith Middleton working on a book called Listening: The Goodness of Ordinary People. The evening gradually degenerating into a Warhol movie gone bad; an inadvertent "bitch slap" from a overly enthusiastic friend, someone urgently asking us to check whether a hired boy was a hooker or just a stripper. More entertainment-as-eternal-rotation drag queens, a patron wondering if we'd plug him for hitting Matt Dillon, the actor blatantly cruising his date. The inevitable twinge of vomit creeping up, ruing our fall from youth and goodness, the time of pure sex and true parties: epic three-day affairs of joy, beyond the tug of disgust, loathing, and publicity. In high school, unlike now, interesting things seemed to happen all the time.